And That Happened: Thursday's Scores and Highlights

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Phillies 5, Marlins 4: Ugly game, with each team trying valiantly to lose throughout, but third base ump Bob Davidson was the ugliest part of all. He blew the call on what would have been the game-winning hit by Gaby Sanchez in the bottom of the ninth, calling it foul when it most clearly was not. Not that he’d know, because he was out of position to make the call. Really, check the screen cap to the right: he’s looking up. The ball is down and to his left.

This crap is just inexcusable. You can institute replay to fix these mistakes or — and this is even more nutty — you can hire umpires who know their ass from their elbow. What you can’t do is let bad calls like this stand in an age when it’s possible to review and correct every single bad call almost immediately after it happens.

Twins 8, Rays 6: OK, this may have been an even bigger horsesh– reason to lose a game than a bad call: Jason Kubel’s pop to shallow left in the top of the ninth hit the
catwalk at Tropicana Field and dropped for an RBI single, giving the
Twins a 7-6 lead in a game they won 8-6. Joe Maddon freaked. As would I have. Then again, at least everyone knew this could happen beforehand because it’s part of the ground rules of the place. No one, in contrast, would have expected that an extra-base hit would be called a foul ball for no good reason in that Philly-Florida game.

Orioles 5, Angels 4: The power of Buck compels you. The Angels have now lost all three Dan Haren starts since the big trade.

Pirates 5, Rockies 1: James McDonald shut out the Rockies over six while striking out eight. I guess that means he’s still helping the Dodgers out, loosely speaking, but eventually they’re going to realize that it was probably a mistake getting rid of him.

Braves 3, Giants 2: Both teams had tons of scoring chances that went by the wayside so in the end the dingers decided it. Two off Tim Lincecum — one for Alex Gonzalez, one for Eric Hinske — which doesn’t happen very often. Jair Jurrjens wasn’t anything special, allowing seven hits, five of which were doubles, and walking three. The Giants should have scored more runs off that, but that’s where this recap started so we’re just going around in circles now.

Red Sox 6, Indians 2: An Adrian Beltre homer and the good version of Dice-K (more valuable because it’s rare!) take care of business.

White Sox 6, Tigers 4: Bobby Jenks did all he could do to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but a two-run triple by Mark Kotsay in the 11th sealed the deal for the Chisox. There are too many good relievers in that Sox pen for Ozzie Guillen to keep using Jenks when he obviously doesn’t trust him.

Padres 5, Dodgers 0: Five pitchers combine to blank L.A., and the Padres are now up two games up on the Giants. Starter Kevin Correia was rather lucky, actually, as he had no strikeouts and gave up a few warning track flies in his five and two-thirds innings.

Rangers 6, Mariners 0: Tommy Hunter bounces back from his first loss of the season to shut down the Mariners. Not that they were running at such a high velocity to begin with. The AP game story is the first time I’ve seen the word “embattled” applies to Don Wakamatsu’s name. I don’t expect it to be the last. And I presume by October it will change to “former.”

Diamondbaks 8, Nationals 4: Sticking with AP game stories, this one contained a classic passage that I think says it all: “The few who showed up got to see a sometimes-stinky game filled with
four errors, a botched squeeze and a strikeout that scored a run.”  “Sometimes Stinky” sounds like the name of an album from some twee, overly-studied British folk duo from the mid-90s.

Nick Markakis: ‘I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?’

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Earlier today, the Braves inked veteran outfielder Nick Markakis to a one-year deal worth $4 million with a club option for the 2020 season worth $6 million with a $2 million buyout. Though Markakis is 35 years old, he’s coming off of a terrific season in which he played in all 162 games and hit .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 705 trips to the plate. Markakis had just completed a four-year, $44 million contract, so he took a substantial pay cut.

Per David O’Brien of The Athletic, Markakis asked his kids where they wanted him to play and they said Atlanta. O’Brien also asked Markakis about the pay cut. The outfielder said, “I’m not mad at all. I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?”

This seemingly innocuous comment by Markakis is actually damaging for his peers and for the union. Baseball as a game is indeed a “kids’ game,” but Major League Baseball is a billion-dollar business that has been setting revenue records year over year. The players have seen a smaller and smaller percentage of the money MLB makes since the beginning of the 2000’s. Furthermore, Markakis only gets paid “a lot of money” relative to, say, a first-year teacher or a clerk at a convenience store. Relative to the value of Liberty Media, which owns the Braves, and relative to the value of Major League Baseball itself, Markakis’s salary is a drop in the ocean.

That Markakis is happy to take a pay cut is totally fine, but it’s harmful for him to publicly justify that because it creates the expectation that his peers should feel the same way and creates leverage for ownership. His comments mirror those who sympathize first and foremost with billionaire team owners. They are common arguments used to justify paying players less, giving them a smaller and smaller cut of the pie. Because Markakis not only took a pay cut but defended it, front office members of the Braves as well as the 29 other teams can point to him and guilt or shame other players for asking for more money.

“Look at Nick, he’s a team player,” I envision a GM saying to younger Braves player who is seeking a contract extension, or a free agent looking to finally find a home before spring training. “Nick’s stats are as good as yours, so why should you make more money than him?”

Contrast Markakis’s approach with Yasmani Grandal‘s. Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million contract offer from the Mets early in the offseason and settled for a one-year, $18.25 million contract with the Brewers. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Grandal said on MLB Network, “I felt like part of my responsibility as a player was to respect the guys that went through this process before I did. Guys like Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, These are guys who established markets and pay levels for upper-tier catchers like me. I felt like I was doing a disservice if I were to take some of the deals that were being thrown around. I wanted to keep the line moving especially for some of the younger guys that are coming up … to let them know, if you’re worthy, then you should get paid what you’re worth. That’s where I was coming from.”

Grandal’s comments are exactly what a member of a union should be saying, unapologetically. The MLBPA needs to get all of its members on the same page when it comes to discussing contracts or labor situations in general publicly. What Markakis said seems selfless and innocent — and I have no doubt he is being genuine without malice — but it could reduce the bargaining power players have across the table from ownership, which means less money. They are already being bamboozled, at least until the next collective bargaining agreement. They don’t need to be bamboozled any more.